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“40 years, 40 nurses” exhibition celebrates landmark anniversary

 “40 years, 40 nurses” exhibition celebrates landmark anniversary

This year, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s Department of Nursing Science turns 40 – and is celebrating the occasion with an exhibition which tells the life stories of 40 devoted nursing graduates, many of whom maintain strong links with the university.

NMMU itself turns 10 this year, but its history goes back much further, as it was formed in 2005 from a merging of the former University of Port Elizabeth (UPE), Port Elizabeth Technikon and Vista University’s Port Elizabeth campus. The Department of Nursing Science was established in 1975 at UPE.

The “40 years, 40 nurses” exhibition features attractive ceiling-high panels, which pay homage to the nurses, outlining where they came from, why they chose nursing, where their careers have taken them, and how they have made an impact, locally, nationally and internationally. It will be launched on Wednesday (February 18) but open to the public from Thursday (February 19) in the Archive Exhibition Centre on NMMU’s Second Avenue Campus. The exhibition runs until March 27.

Among the 40 are nursing stalwarts like Prof Nita Strumpher, who has spent 37 years teaching at the university. Ironically, she chose to study nursing on a whim, following friends who were planning to do the same, but soon discovered nursing was her calling in life.

Some of the nurses profiled have made history, like Dr Jill von der Marwitz, who was instrumental in establishing South Africa’s first on-campus Anti-retroviral (ARV) Clinic, at NMMU. There is also Prof Cecil Rautenbach, who was the first male nurse in the country to obtain a Doctorate in Nursing.

Some nurses have emigrated or worked elsewhere temporarily, blazing a trail of success in other countries, like Prof Cheryl Benn, who has headed up various programmes and committees in New Zealand, including being appointed to the Nursing Council of New Zealand by the former Minister of Health.  

Also in the mix is current Head of Department Prof Esmeralda Ricks, who is passionate about researching how mobile technology can be used to enhance community nursing, along with past head Prof Dalena van Rooyen, who is now director of NMMU’s School of Clinical Care Science, and part of the team working towards NMMU’s goal of building a medical school by 2020.

“We are proud to have touched the lives of hundreds of students over the past 40 years, helping them develop into top quality nurses, with a high work ethic and moral integrity,” said Ricks.

The department has indeed come a long way since it first opened its doors in 1975, with just six undergraduate and 18 postgraduate students. Last year, there were 456 undergraduates and 279 postgraduates.

Many are attracted by the department’s world-class simulation laboratories, which house state-of-the-art equipment for the various nursing disciplines, enabling students to practise their clinical skills in a safe environment, before working with patients. NMMU has conducted simulation training workshops throughout South Africa and in Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The department has strong international ties with the United States, Norway, Sweden and India, and plays an active role in the various national nursing bodies.

At a local level, community engagement is a priority. Staff members are involved in the training of nursing educators at Lilitha College of Nursing, and selected undergraduates assist on the Phelophepa train, which provides primary health care deep in deep rural areas.

“NMMU’s Department of Nursing has made an impact on health care education in general, and nursing science in particular, at a global, national and local level,” said Ricks.

“We desire to continue to grow in excellence and build on our strengths, all the time seeking to be innovative and visionary in our teaching, engagement and research.”


Caption: Former Nursing Science Department head Prof Dalena van Rooyen (left) and current department head Prof Esmeralda Ricks.

Image supplied.